Rich, and others: I applaud your frankness that the simplest solution is to disconnect from pop culture delivered by the idiot box.
However, living in a household with teenager that we have been raised conscious and limit exposure to TV garbage. I find myself in a careful balance of news media and some relevant programming for educational and entrainment value. The price I pay is to be shocked by news media with irrelevant information that is padded within local, information that I seek as valuable for my daily consumption.
Yes, science and engineering can be exciting when delivered in format such as myth busters, Nova and other plethora of programming that delivers knowledge to a diverse audience.
Discovery channel and others are doing a fair job in making science of great interest to a vast amount of kids, and adults that otherwise would have been limited to only classroom time ( I find the late Carl Sagan, and now Stephen Hawking, great role models that explain science in layman's terms)
When I hear youth reference names like Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as folk heroes for making science accessible to the masses; it redeems TV programming for doing some good after all.
A certain segment of the population is always going to be more interested in entertainment than more important things like politics, science, history etc. That's just the way it is, and in my opinion it has been that way for a very, very long time, especially in the developed part of the world where so many things (like abundant food supply) are taken for granted. Trying to change this is like swimming up stream. Those of us who are more interested in more substantial topics can find plenty to pay attention to. For the others, let them have Lady Gaga.
BTW, for what it's worth, I personally had no idea that the Video Music Awards were held recently or that Lady Gaga won anything until I read about it here, this morning, on EE Times.
As Chris G indicated, the beauty of the internet is in the ability it gives us to filter and ignore. Yes, there's a lot of junk out there amongst to non-wasted electron patterns, but there is a whole lot of specialization too.
It's possible, by carefully selecting what you do read, to go weeks at a time without hearing about Lady Gaga or Ben/Jen/Angelina. I didn't even know the VMA awards were coming up or just happened or whatever is going on with them.
Pretty much the only time I have to suffer through that meaningless celebrity tripe is when waiting in a long slow checkout line at the supermarket.
It's been said been said here on EE-Times that most engineers think Twitter is a useless waste of time and while the hardware engineering community has made some decent progress in the blog world, I'm convinced its still half a decade behind the software folks. I certainly understand both sentiments, but if you look at it as a technical challenge, study it and twist it to your your needs, much the same you would with a little microcontroller, you can engineer yourself an environment where you get the important news without most of the junk.
Media used to be a one-way information flow with everything concentrated in a newspaper, magazine or few television channels. With the internet, we now really can make it at two-way flow customized to our own tastes. This may be the first time in history that, short of just not following news, we've had such an opportunity and ability to ignore so much of the mindless prattle.
It is partly our fault guys. If we stop watching the garbage that TV throws at us, there won't be that much money for these people, and the value of hard work, enterprise, and commitment will shine again.
Throughout the Western world, engineering as a discipline is declining and the youth would rather go and do a soft degree or spend their full energy trying to get into Big Brother or some nonsense programme like that. I do not see things changing that much in the near future to be honest with you. In the mid to long term, I think when living standards start seriously declining as a result, Western societies will eventually start re-aligning its priorities.
I think part of the problem is you underestimate how vapid the population has been historically. As I read recently (sorry, can't remember the source!), "They even had to play a game of golf to keep people engaged by the time they had landed on the moon". On the moon! It became so commonplace to hear about men launching out of our atmosphere and landing on a non-earth orbital object and people still weren't interested! How is that possible???
In terms of celebrity culture, it's always new and different (and yet so, so not). There's always some stupid new person to watch or scandal developing. And of course, it is always attractive people doing these things.
My suggestion for you Bill would be to immerse yourself in the counter-culture. Go read the MAKE blog and dive into the hobbyist culture. There is a surprising tide turning of people wanting to make and do their own things and showcase them to the world. Since I started following it, I have never been disappointed. It's people that are creative and driven and they give me hope for humanity.
The brilliant thing about the internet and modern media is the ability to truly tune in or out of what you want. The fact that so many want to watch pop culture drivel is something that just has to roll off your shoulders.
Co-Host of The Amp Hour
Your comments hit the mark. I see one of the problems is that these celebs never disappear after their 15 minutes. I sure we can all come up with a list of people we would rather not ever hear anything about again. It also seems that most of them do not have the talent to warrant all this attention. As P.T. Barnum may (or may not) said: "No one went broke underestimating public taste."